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11/11/2010

Italian filmmaker Dino De Laurentiis dies at 91 [Updated]

November 11, 2010 |  7:20 am

Dino 

Dino De Laurentiis, the flamboyant Italian movie producer who helped resurrect his country's film industry after World War II and for more than six decades produced films as diverse as the 1954 Federico Fellini classic “La Strada” and the 1976 remake of “King Kong,” has died. He was 91.

The Italian media reported his death Thursday morning.

[Updated at 8:40 a.m.: De Laurentiis, who moved to the United States in the 1970s, died Wednesday night at his Beverly Hills home, his daughter Raffaella De Laurentiis, said in a statement Thursday. The cause was not given. An earlier version of this post said Italian media reported that he died in Los Angeles.]

Once described by Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein as “a master showman, the last survivor of a bygone era of swashbuckling Hollywood producers ... who made movies fueled by grandiose schemes and consummate salesmanship,” De Laurentiis launched his long career as a producer in Italy in the 1940s.

In the 1950s, he produced two Oscar-winning best foreign films — Fellini's “La Strada” (with then-partner Carlo Ponti) and Fellini's “Nights of Cabiria” (1957).

In 1962, the prolific producer began building a sprawling studio complex on the outskirts of Rome that he called Dinocitta — Dino City.

During the 1960s — he is credited with pioneering the now-common practice of financing films by pre-selling the distribution rights in foreign countries — De Laurentiis produced films such as director Richard Fleischer's “Barabbas,” starring Anthony Quinn; John Huston's star-studded “The Bible”; and Roger Vadim's “Barbarella,” starring Jane Fonda.

His company also produced Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.”

After selling his studio and moving to the United States in the 1970s, De Laurentiis produced films such as “Serpico,” “Death Wish,” “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Serpent's Egg,” “Ragtime” and “Conan the Barbarian.”

But De Laurentiis' name also became synonymous with expensive box-office failures such as “Dune,” “Tai-Pan” and “King Kong Lives.”

The son of a pasta manufacturer, he was born Agostino De Laurentiis on Aug. 8, 1919, in Torre Annunziata, some 17 miles from Naples.

One of seven children, he dropped out of school at 15 and traveled as a salesman for his father's pasta factory. But he wasn't enamored of the family business.

In 1937, the movie-struck teenager was accepted to the first-year acting course at a new film school in Rome, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia.

At the end of the year, De Laurentiis realized he didn't have the makings of a successful actor and realized he'd rather be behind the camera — as a producer.

He worked for a time as an extra, stagehand, electrician and director's assistant before changing his first name from Agostino to Dino and launching a production company.

A full obituary will follow at www.latimes.com/obits.

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Dino De Laurentiis at his Beverly Hills home in 2001. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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